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Instinctively--she knew not why--Per'dra rushed toward the corner of the room and stood in front of the mysterious half-elven girl. A "reaver", she had been called. In the tales, reavers were reported to be the most wicked of sentient beings: those who fed upon lost souls. The Purge spy was certainly one of them, and so it was no surprise that this female on all fours appeared so frightened. Clearing her throat, the Bard brandished her two short swords:


"Take nary a step closer! There shall be no more bloodshed among one another in the Drunkard's Haven, because the Purge will kill us all soon! We must consider ourselves AND our neighbors. We'll only be doing the Purge a favor by murdering someone else." Silence. Feeling irritated, Per'dra cried, "Flee, fools, while you still have the chance! 'Reavers' are only in children's stories; she's only a terrified half-elf. Out, out, out!" She managed to shoo a mob of gaping onlookers toward the exit and out the door. Still, several more people remained. She recognized the Elf who had divined her dreams, the heavily-armored man who had cornered the spy, and also the mage who had first tried to unravel the secret of her nightmares. She did not recognize the other tavern patrons; they weren't leaving, at least not yet.


"That's right. Back off, and leave this half-elf alone. Nice and slowly, now." Breathing heavily, she told the one on all fours, "If they rush us, be ready."

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Vakarr could barely stand to watch as the human killed the purge spy. He wasn’t sickened by the kill, that couldn’t have bothered him slightly. It was the fact that despite what he had asked, the human didn’t seem to care and butchered the spy in front of everyone. He felt a little uneasy in his stomach, and was almost afraid to turn around to see Emi’s reaction. The poor woman was probably trying to convince herself it hadn’t happened.


What came next though was something not even he was prepared to witness.

The very spy that had just been slaughtered was now a spirit. He watched as the spirit was suddenly pulled towards something and he could do nothing to get himself out of it. The spirit phased through Vakarr as he made his way towards Emi. Vakarr watched Emi, completely caught off guard now. She wasn’t afraid to watch the man die…she was a reaver, one bar patron had pointed out.


He glanced to the woman who had spoke up, and how they should all flee before the Purge came. He found himself in agreement with her, but to travel with humans? The very idea made him almost sick to his stomach. He would have given his opinion, but instead heard the trembling words of Emi. He turned his gaze back on the now revealed reaver.


The sight he witnessed was actually unnerving , somewhat sad too. Vakarr actually looked to the poor woman with pity. Vakarr’s eyes saw a younger version of himself in her place for just a moment. The feeling of being different, and being judged for it. Then he watched another sight he was not ready for…the human woman came to Emi’s aid. This woman was actually trying to protect her, even though she was a reaver. Vakarr slowly began to advance towards the two, his hands held up to show he meant no danger to them.


“Despite my feelings, I shall follow you miss…fight with you if need be,” Vakarr said to Per’da. He looked to Emi and held his hand out to her to help her back to her feet.


“She’s right, we must go,” Vakarr said to Emi in a softer tone.

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Emi opened her eyes to find the Bard woman defending her. Why? Why would she risk herself to defend a reaver, and a half-elf at that? Reavers were detested by the regular folk, even legends were spoken to children that were naughty.


She glanced up to the Bard woman, as she told her to be ready. She still was taken a bit aback by her actions and not only that, Vakarr had walked over to them and even offered her his hand to help her stand.


The voice of the spy still lingered in her head but it was slowly dying out. She moved her hand closer to his but then realized that she was offering him the hand on which she had scarring from the fire and then pulled that hand and offered him the other. With his help, she stood up and composed herself.


"T-thank you", she told the Bard woman but also glanced to Vakarr so he would know that her gratitude was also meant for him. Somehow her voice had a little more volume to it.

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((Sorry for falling behind, let me know if I need to change anything.))


"I'm getting out of here. Does anyone want to join me? If we flee to the woods, we have a better chance of escape."


Valron turned to look at the man who had just killed Velor and shook his head in mild disappointment. "I really would have liked to kill him but I can't help but think he would have given up the information if we had beaten him a bit."


He then turned to look at the Per'dra and nodded as he walked over to her and the half-elf. "I will travel with you. And I swear that I will keep you and the half-elf safe from harm. I have already seen enough people lost to the purge, I refuse to see anyone else die at their hands."


He then turned to look at the half-elf and smiled a very dark smile at the crowds that were still looking at her. "I believe that the woman told you to leave. Now you can either leave now...or I can chase each and everyone of you out of here."


He pulled the sword off his back and pointed it at the crowd and smiled again just to show that he meant business.

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Tael's look of glee was quickly replaced with a face of horror, as he saw the man's soul sucked into Emi. Not acknowledging the other man, he rushed to Emi's side.


"I...I", he was at a loss for words. Never, in his entire life, had he felt sorrow for killing a Purge spy. But Emi... she was a reaver - a so-called monster in children's fables. His voice filled heavy with regret.


"...I apologize for my ignorance. I did not mean for ridicule and prejudice to come from my recklessness.", he finally said. The elven had given him a look of contempt, but he didn't care. He decided if whether he should stay, as he felt that he already caused too much friction between all of them.

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Emi glanced at Tael and for a moment looked away making sure they could only see the part of her face without scarring. It was the first time in her life that people seemed worried about her rather than disgusted or afraid of her as if they were going to contract a disease from just being near her. Her mouth curled into a small smile.


"I-It's ok... I'm f-fine now", she said to reassure Tael. She stopped there, not really wanting to explain why it happened that she just absorbed the spy's soul and since it didn't seem like anyone was going to ask anything about it yet, she was glad. Everyone was more worried about getting out of the place.


Emi was more worried about the tavern keeper, having a body bleeding out on her business would raise questions and implicate her directly. She was a nice woman, and she didn't deserve the unnecessary attention that the Purge would give her in their investigation.


"U-Umm... the body... we should... take it away", she said in a slightly higher volume so the people involved would hear.

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As more patrons spilled out of the tavern, a man with a simple peasant's smock and hood sat, feet propped up on the table, staring at the group still left in the building. No one really noticed him simply because he looked just like everyone else, was inconspicuous, minding his business, his gaze hidden by the raised hood, thus drawing no attention to himself. He was a normal man, minding himself.....


The man smirked in the darkness of his hood as the spy was slain, if anyone had seen this they would have assumed he was simply smiling at another member of the Purge being slain.


Though currently things had died down, many people were gone, though still more were left too. The man finally moved, lowering his feet from the table, unnoticed, he stood, throwing a gold coin at the barmaid for a drink he hadn't even taken a single sip from - this is what drew the Dwarf's attention. Her life of hardship had taught her one thing, peasants didn't give, or have, gold coins, and if they did, they kept them for hard times in a safe place. The Dwarf perked herself upright, more-so than when the Reaver girl had taken in the soul of the Purge spy, this alerting the Elf, who'd been sulking at his table, ignoring even the death of the Purge spy, and only barely taking notice of the incident with the Reaver girl.


As if time itself had slowed they watched eyes growing ever wider as a deep seated fear began to grow in both of them. The man smirked once more, speaking normally, though to the group in the corner they would not hear, the Elf's sharp ears did, while the Dwarf nearby the man could barely see his lips moving in the shadow of his hood, but reading and listening to all she could as she slowly began to lift from her seat.


"Poor Velor, his service to the cause will be remembered, though, hours? Sooner than that I say...." The man spoke cryptically, his words unheard to all but one, and grazed and guessed by another.


The fear grew, time slowed to a near halt it seemed, the man reaching into his pocket, the Dwarf now on her feet, the Elf launching across his table straight at the man, sword being drawn, eyes glowing ever brighter.


A moment, and then another - time had stopped. The man's hand out of his pocket, placing an object on the table, the Dwarf maiden turning towards the group in the corner, her mouth gaping open as she made to shout at them, her finger jabbing out towards the man as he walked out the tavern door.


Then, as if time had been snapped back in place, it all came screeching together - "Hey! Here! HERE!!!"


The sound of tables and chairs crashing, glass shattering, a distant sound of the door shutting. The Elf popped his head up from the ruination of the table the man had been sitting at, watching as the man himself walked past the outside front bay window of the tavern, his head turning to look on those inside, the light capturing his smirk as he strolled out of view. It was a cryptic, haunting farewell to those who remained.


The Dwarf was out the door, charging past the window outside the tavern, the Elf stood, staring down at an object in his hand, his ebony sword in the other. Moments later the Dwarf returned, shaking her head in despair, the man had vanished into the oily black shadows of the slums of Paryer.


The Elf stared down at his hand for what seemed ages, the Dwarf approaching, looking at the object, her arms going limp at her sides, her mouth gaping open in shock. The Elf looked up at the group, his eyes spewing forth ethereal fog, a sense of barely contained rage was seen behind them. Lifting the object that he had up into plain sight of the others: a Purge pendent, the exact same as the one Velor had.


"I knew it!" He spat vehemently.


And almost as if queued by the very revelation of the pendent itself the sound of trampling feet could be heard outside, cries echoing in the distance, a glow seen on the horizon. The Dwarf bolted for the window, looking outside, her eyes grew wide with shock and terror.


The scene was that of people standing in the threshold of their houses, others in the streets, or looking from windows, people pointing and crying and shouting, others charging down the street - the sound of the trampling feet. In the distance one could see the glow: immense flames were engulfing the city, screams of death heard in the distance.


The Dwarf turned back to the others and rasped, "They've started in the Gold District!"


"The rich are as much scum in their eyes as the poor, they only cozy up to them for needed favors and supplies. No one is spared the Purge!" The Elf spoke up, his eyes on the pendent, his hand trying to crush the bronze metal object, but to no avail.


"We gotta go, we gotta get out of here!" the Dwarf panicked, rushing to grab her things from her table.


The Elf went to throw the pendent at the window, but halted, putting it in a pouch instead. "They'll have planned for the slums to see this, or else the flames would not be so evident, even without looking out there I can tell you that.....They'll have a trap set, much like my people do for hunters; the panicked and scared will run out of the city, only to be caught by waiting columns of Purge soldiers, most will be caught....."


He angled his head at the group as if to answer the question they were all thinking, ".....They'll need recruits. The poor and the frightened make good recruits."


"Tulsí! [Come Now - General translation] We must go," he said as he sheathed his blade and moved towards the Bard. In his mind, she was the only one who mattered, the others could stay, or flee in whichever direction they desired, it mattered not to him. The Dwarf was right on his tail, though he himself didn't notice.


"You know a city better than I would; lead. Head towards the flames, but not on any direct routes, and at an angle moving away from the flames as you head towards them, so as to leave the city, troops will be moving in walls and phalanxes to push inhabitants towards the other end of the city to be caught by the main columns. Do you understand?" The Elf regarded the Bard, his knowledge of traps and warfare a sign of his people's lifestyle, and agelessness.


((BTW: the time standing still thing was not magic or anything, just a perspective I was trying to portray.))

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Vakarr shook his head as the ignorant human came to apologize for his previous actions. He wanted nothing more than to tell this human off. This however would take too long, and the Purge would have made it to the bar by then. Oddly enough the human looked older than him, by quite a few years actually. It was sad that he was older, yet still making the actions one in their early youth would make. The only thing he did do was snort in disapproval; it was short and showed how he felt.


Soon the outside world got much louder as shouts were heard. It seemed the Purge was already making their attack on the city. They were going to need a plan to evacuate, and quickly. It seemed this plan would come quicker than he expected as a tall being approached the group. Vakarr was initially surprised to see someone taller than him, but quickly got over it given the situation.


The tall being gave his opinion on what should be done to escape, quite an intelligent plan actually. This was a bit of a blessing for Vakarr for he only really had Emi that he considered some type of worthy ally. Another intelligent being was wonderful, especially amongst these reckless humans.


“What he says makes sense. My skills in the magical arts are not the greatest, but I do know a few protection spells that could help,” Vakarr said, stating his opinion and giving an offer.


He also had his strength and defense, but he felt he didn’t really need to state that. He would use the spell on anyone in the group…even one of these humans. He’d need as many people with him as he could find if they wanted a chance of getting out of the city. That way if they did get caught, they’d be able to fight back. Still he was already forming a hierarchy of people he’d assist first to who he’d assist only after being sure those first few weren’t in any trouble. Vakarr looked over at Emi.


“Stay close to me,” Vakarr said with a nod. “I’ll need someone to protect me from them,” he added jokingly.


Usually his humor was dark, this one was much more innocent. It was in no way an insult to her skills, which at this point he was certain she had. This was simply based on their appearances. That he a large heavily armored being would need protection from someone who was smaller than he was. It was an attempt to make her feel better after what had happened to her.

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If Vakarr had spoken jokingly, to Emi, it was not apparent. What she understood from his words was that someone was relying on her. The very notion of it made her somewhat happy? Or glad? Whatever it was she looked at Vakarr with a decisive look and she nodded to him as if taking on the job of protecting him as well. The bard woman, Vakarr, Tael and Valron had stood up and guarded her from anyone who wanted to harm her and for the first time in her life, she felt compelled to aid them, she owed them that much.


She pulled her cloak back on her sides to reveal the twin short swords on her belt. She did this to reassure them that she knew what she was doing in a fight. But she still wasn't able to control the absorption of souls, but she would have to endure it, if fighting to get out of the city would be inevitable.


"The Barmaid... w-will she... be a-alright?", Emi asked, she still couldn't bring herself to talk without stuttering a little, and her voice kept a medium tone albeit a little on the low.

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((And so begins our harrowing "Escape from Paryer" sequence!!!))


Unfortunately, "the barmaid" was not in any condition to respond to Emi's expression of concern. That's because she had fainted! After watching the deceased spy's soul depart from his body and enter that of the Reaver, Meara Edeline had collapsed, senseless, onto the tavern floor! Per'dra gave a start, hearing the thud of the tavern-keep's head meeting wood, but as soon as she checked to see who it was, the Elf sternly commanded:


"Tulsí! We must go...You know a city better than I would; lead!"


After listening to his instructions, the Bard nodded and then looked at Meara. Thinking she'd be able to lift the stalwart wench upon her shoulders, Per'dra was promptly forced to the ground. After struggling for a bit with the fully unconscious woman, she brushed herself off and cried, "I have stamina, but little strength! I'm sorry, old friend, but I can't carry you--especially when on the run." She took a deep breath. "Follow me. We have no time to lose!"


Grabbing the two hands nearest her--Emi's and that of the Elf--Per'dra dashed for the shoddy and rarely-used back door of the Drunkard's Haven. After releasing the two from their grasp, she informed them, "If you stay close to me, you'll be able to run like the wind. My steps shall pound a rhythm that propels us all, if indeed luck is with us. One, two, three--" She sped off. Leading the Elf and the Reaver through a winding maze of back alleys and side streets, Per'dra concentrated on her breath and her pacing most of all. If she faltered for a moment in them, the powerfully suggestive effect of her steps would vanish. Who could afford to fall behind in this situation?


I know these dung-and-trash-filled cul-de-sacs like the sound of my own voice! As a Bard, the comparison was fitting, and Per'dra's exacting memory served her well. Navigating through the dark and filthy corners of the slums of Paryer was far from easy, but if anyone who was poor ever wanted to flee the city, this difficult task had to be undertaken. As she ran, her steps quickened from a steady one-and, two-and, three-and, four-and to a pounding series of frenetic semiquavers. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG7OzvSMBA] During this part, which relied far more on speed than the knowledge of the streets, she grasped Emi and the Elf's hands again. Propelling them further into the darkness, she gasped suddenly on a turn:


The flames in the Gold District were becoming higher and brighter. The peasants, seeing this, were either rioting and looting (a stupid idea) or running for their lives (a far better idea). However, Per'dra knew they were going the wrong way, straight toward their own destruction at the regular slum gates. They were either going to trample one another to death if they found the gates closed, or else they'd pour into the forests like a bunch of blind rats. The Purge was either waiting there, or they would follow and murder away!


"We can't join them. The river--it's our only hope! Hold on..." Gritting her teeth, Per'dra resumed her former pace, the one that made her feet fly like bats' wings, taking her two allies with her. There was a path to the river that very few people used, because it led to the muddiest and wildest section...

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Vakarr nodded a second time to Emi after she nodded at him. He would have said something but then Per’da sprung into action. He watched as she tried to move her unconscious friend and even cursed herself for not being stronger. With that she took off with Emi and the tall being that had provided intelligent information. Vakarr let out a sigh as he would have to follow them…which meant running.


He glanced down at the unconscious woman and completed if he should simply kill her on the spot. It was probably a better fate than whatever the Purge could do to her. The thought of a mercy killing? Offering to fight with humans? Was he starting to get soft? Vakarr shivered at the very thought and immediately followed Per’da out the back door. Though speed was not his strong point, he was lucky that she had stopped to tell Emi and the tall one something. Vakarr however did not hear what exactly Per’da told the two. He wasn’t aware of what she had planned. All he would hear was her countdown.


Upon hearing three Vakarr prepared to take his first step towards running. As soon as he took that step though, he found himself moving at a pace that was incredibly quick. He wobbled for a few seconds as he attempted to keep his balance. Per’da moved through these alleys with such grace…Vakarr bumped into walls and looked like a drunk. The scene would have been comical if everyone wasn’t so busy running for their lives.


Vakarr was finally able to adapt to this sudden increase in speed. He had to admit it was quite enjoyable, despite the awful job he did just minutes ago. He heard a gasp escape someone up ahead, but he couldn’t make out who had let out the gasp. He was far more focused on not slamming into the trio as Per’da had stopped. He took this time to catch his breath, rather than view the flames in the Gold District. It wasn’t because he was overweight; it was because speed wasn’t a strength of his. His armor was quite heavy, and he was made for taking damage and dealing damage…not doing flips and running for long periods of time. Per’da then spoke up about heading to the river and started running again. Vakarr rolled his eyes, despite no one being able to see it, and started running as well so that he could be in range for that much needed speed boost.

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Tael watched as Per'dra led the Elf and Emi out of the tavern, with Vakarr swiftly following them. He glanced at the unconscious woman, and without hesitation, picked her up. He winced under the weight, but he was able to stand it. He put her over his shoulder as he ran after the others.


He looked to his side to see columns of fire appear in the distance. He shuddered at the thoughts of their deaths, but he was forced to carry on. He didn't want to be left behind, so he sprinted after Vakarr. His sprint was reduced to a run, which reduced into a fast walk. He was tiring quickly, and hoped that wherever they were going was nearby.

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((What should I do with Valron? Is there anyway I can save him?))


Valron could see the flames that were ravaging the gold district and smiled grimly. This was not an honorable battle, this was going to be a slaughter. The purge were looking to smoke them out and massacre them.


This is not a battle I can win. He thought as he observed a few figures approaching through the smoke and flames that had englufed the gold district.


Valron brought his sword off his back and began heading for the river. There were many twisting corridors and other passages where he could make a stand against the purge who were approaching the district.


A few of the figures it seemed had managed to make their way into the slums already with all of the chaos that had gripped the slums and from the looks of it they were causing more chaos.


"Come purge cowards!" He shouted above the panicked shouts. "Come and face your death at the hands of Valron!"

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At that point, Tegan leapt from her seat, not bothering to finish her wine, and charged out the door of the tavern. Overhearing that people would need to make for the river, she began calculating routes in her head. Under the circumstances, pure speed wouldn't be enough, but she knew the streets and rooftops well.


Spotting a loose barrel near the tavern, Tegan used it to climb up to the roof of the Tavern, and from there, she leapt to the roof of the nearest building just kept running.

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Taking a deep breath, Per'dra prepared for a dead sprint. She knew exactly where this section of the Riault River lay. She also knew there were several ferrymen waiting to take her and her allies downstream...if they hadn't taken their own boats and done the same thing. Surely the ferrymen knew about the Purge, but the question remained: were they on the Purge's side? The Bard had no chance of knowing, and because of this she was afraid. Nevertheless, Per'dra knew she would rather die by a river rat's hand than by the blood-seeking weapons of that relentless army.


"Hold on!" she told the Reaver and the Elf, clasping hands one last time. Letting out a cry more fit for fighting a battle than for fleeing one, Per'dra burst into a final dash for the river. Unbeknownst to her, others from the Drunkard's Haven were headed in her direction, infused by her own speed. Vakarr was one of these. Tegan and Valron were finding their own path to the Riault, leaping on and over rooftops to escape the soldiers of the Purge...


"At last!" Per'dra gave a yelp of relief once she saw that there were still ferrymen waiting at their posts. Approaching one, she finally slowed down:


"Good sir, please help us! The Purge is destroying and killing all of Paryer!"


"Get in!" a tall and burly ferryman said roughly. "My boat's big enough for the three of ye, and also a few more. Nevertheless, with too much weight it'll sink." He surveyed his passengers. "Who's coming with you for sure, lass?"


"These two," the Bard replied, gazing apologetically at her companions. "I'm sorry to have been so bossy during this past half-hour..." She climbed into the boat along with the others. "As for payment, I--fear I have nothing to give."


"Never mind that! Coin won't save anyone, including us, if we don't hurry..."

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Tael saw a river dead ahead, with the three walking onto one of the ferries. In one last, final dash, he summoned all of his energy into a mad sprint to the ferry. He reached it, putting the unconscious barmaid onto the floor. He was panting, and he fell backwards - completely exhausted.

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The path Per’dra was taking was unfamiliar to Vakarr which meant he had to rely on her to guide them to wherever they were heading. He was already depending on the speed boost of hers, now he had to trust her sense of direction. While she seemed to know where she was going, he still didn’t like the concept of trusting a human. He’d have to suck up his pride though and just do it. He wouldn’t have made it this far without her, even if he didn’t want to admit it.


He could see a few ferries in the distance and couldn’t help but smile a little. The bard had pulled through for him after-all. He was ready for Per’dra to slow down this time and wouldn’t have to awkwardly stop. He slowly got on the boat after the others did.


He turned to see the human who had caused some chaos at the bar currently on the floor. He too seemed tired being forced to run in armor. What surprised Vakarr the most though was the woman he had carried. He had managed to run this entire way with the bard’s friend. Had he done this simply because it was a good deed? Vakarr looked to Per’dra, then back to the human male. Perhaps there was another reason, perhaps to gain the bard’s favor. The two seemed somewhat close in age from what he could tell, so it made sense to him. Thinking of the bard made him remember he somewhat owed her for getting him here.


“Here,” Vakarr said handing the ferryman a small sack of coin. “This should cover the small group of us and a few more,” he added.


Despite what the ferryman said, he was certain he’d want pay once they were safe. Who didn’t want money in this world? He considered himself somewhat even now with Per’dra, but not quite. She had safely brought Emi aboard this ship.


Vakarr looked to Emi for a few seconds. He reached his hand out slowly and gently patted her arm. He wasn’t sure why he had done so, but felt a bit of a need to. Perhaps it was to indicate that he had made it, or some sort of joy that she had made it. He was careful on which arm to pat before doing so. When she offered him a hand she hesitated with one arm and instead offered him the other. He chose the arm she offered him over the one she hesitated with earlier.


With that Vakarr stepped away from the others. He made his way to the edge of the ferry and looked down at the water below. Slowly he removed the helmet that covered his face and held it at his side. He needed the fresh air as all that running had made him somewhat tired. His reflection now looked back to him. It was someone who was supposed to be half elf…and half human.


His skin was gray, but everything else was human. His ears weren’t pointy, and his facial features were much more human. He could actually be considered somewhat handsome if someone were to look at him. He hated the way he looked though…how human he was. The very reminder that he was half of them made him angry. He didn’t want any of the others to see how he looked. He let out a sigh and ran his hand through his black hair. It felt somewhat good, and was helping him relax. He continued to watch his reflection, unaware if anyone else was looking at him or not.

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The ferryman blinked at how so many passengers had appeared on his humble, raft. "All right, then!" he exclaimed, hastily picking up the sacks of coin before any of these Purge refugees suddenly changed their mind about paying him. Come to think of it, he was glad that a few of them had--no matter what he'd said to the Bard. "Hail to all, and call me Oleg. I'm a Northman." He stood up and began to row, but quickly realized that he had way too much weight on board and not enough momentum! "There are a couple more steering poles aboard," he announced. "I'm strong, but not infallible. Two more--row!"


Per'dra rose up immediately, since she was one of the passengers who hadn't been able to pay Oleg for his assistance. However, her "sea legs" were weak, and coupled with the heavy pole, they made her fall right on her prat. "Oof!"


"Not you," Oleg grumbled. "You look like you've run fifteen miles already!" That's not far from the truth, the embarrassed tale-spinner thought, though it was actually more like two miles... Exhausted, she settled into her place aboard the ferry, near the very front. She was sitting next to Oleg, who snickered at her lightly. Per'dra was far too tired to mind, however...

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((Sorry for the late reply, RL issues are getting in the way.))


I still can't believe that I was forced to retreat. Valron thought sadly. He felt nothing but shame, not even fear was coursing through his body now. All that that there was was shame. He was currently running across the rooftops as quick as he could with his armor on.


He could see a small ferry leaving the docking area and a sudden idea came to mind. There was no way he could reach it through normal means such as running through the streets towards it. But it he stuck to the roofs...that might be a different story.


"Make way!" He shouted at the top of his lungs as he pushed himself to run even faster as he jumped off the roof and landed in the water directly next to the boat. His hands desperatly grabbed onto the side of the ferry as he tried to pull himself aboard.


"I apologize for the sudden entrance, but I could really use some help getting aboard right now." He said in gasping breaths. All that running in his armor had exhausted him.

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"I'll try.", shrugged Tael.


He climbed up to his feet. He had trouble standing, and leaned on the heavy pole. He started rowing,. but after a minute or so, he felt shredded still.


"Uhh...cursed exhaustion.", cursed Tael, unable to realize his limits. As he let go of the pole, he fell face first into the hard-wooded floor - a foot away from Per'dra. If the exhaustion didn't knock him out, the blow most certainly did.


He heard the words of another man, just when he hit the floor.

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Emi bit her lip, she simply took hold of the pole that used to be in Tael's hands and begin rowing in unison with the ferryman. Most of her companions had been running on their own towards the ferry, the Per'dra had concentrated much of her own energy in just keeping a steady and almost lightning fast pace to get both the Elf and Emi herself over here to the river. It was obvious all of them would be almost completely exhausted.


But she had to do something for them, she had to contribute in some way as they had contributed to her spirit.


Her legs were almost on fire because of the lightning pace that Per'dra kept them on but she was determined to help and kept rowing with the ferryman, gaining more speed as they went.

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Vakarr was quick to put his helmet back on. Once more his face was hidden by the helmet, as it should be. He heard more noise as more people got on the ferry. There was a higher chance someone could have seen him, and he wouldn't take that risk. He walked back towards the others after hearing the ferryman.


Vakarr looked around at the traveling group once the ferryman mentioned they needed two more rowers. Most of the others seemed exhausted and those that weren't seemed to frail. Vakarr shook his head as it seemed he would have to do this degrading task. First however he walked over to the side of the ship.


With one arm he took hold of the human's arm and started to pull. The human was certainly heavy with his armor, making Vakarr reach out with his second arm. He pulled the human on out of the water and onto the ferry. He then walked over to one of the steering poles and began rowing.


Vakarr was a warrior with great strength. He was stronger than most people he encountered and could lift a two handed sword with ease. His physical strength wasn't his only strength though. Vakarr had a very high endurance and could exert himself further than most. He could also take a few hits that would slow down others. His endurance allowed him to row without getting tired as the others had.


Vakarr noticed Emi had taken the human's spot after he fell down. He said nothing though as he focused on the task at hand. Soon he began to whistle, and then the whistle turned into a hum. The tune he was humming to himself without realizing it was one his mother sang when he was a child.

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Oleg was definitely grateful for the help, although he let Emi sit down and steer instead of providing the necessary speed. Now, with three people propelling the ferry along instead of one, more progress was made! As the city of Paryer burned to the ground, Gold District and slums alike, the ones who weren't unconscious or asleep began to shudder. Per'dra surely did.


"I can't believe it," she said softly. "This city's been home for my whole life! Now the Purge--" The Bard could barely finish. "How many have their evil soldiers slaughtered? How many did they take prisoner? My old friends..." All of a sudden, she heard a loud cough and a groan:


"Meara!" Per'dra engulfed the barmaid in her arms. "Thanks be to the Ultimate that you're alive!" Together the two women wept for a bit, until Oleg cried:


"Hold fast there, ladies! I need someone to tell me where to go from here, because we're going to have to choose which of the Seven Snakes to follow. The Riault is a wild and watery wench, unpredictable in her courses. If no one gives me any direction, I'm going to have to pick the way myself. I don't know where the Purge is, and where it isn't. Have they sent any spies downriver?"


"I--don't know," the Bard responded. "Are the Seven Snakes really so close?"


"You bet your beautiful little bum they are, lass. Better start deciding..."


The Seven Snakes were the seven branches of the Riault River, clear as crystal but containing mightily different waters. Each of the "Snakes" wound its way into vastly different territories, harboring different peoples and dangers at their ends:


The Green Snake, Esmeralde, led eventually to the Forest Elves' pines.


The White Snake, Belayya, wound its way into Northman territory.


The Golden Snake, Auris, ended underground in the Dwarves' home.


The Blue Snake, Zulanderin, hissed until it reached Umberman lands.


The Red Snake, Rogozha, slithered until it wet Lizardmen's tongues.


The Amber Snake, Uthlu, was nearly silent. Mighty Ogres patrolled it.


Last but not least, Cherna, the Black Snake, nourished the Dark Elves.


Per'dra closed her eyes and waited for a certain dragon to speak to her: Where are you, V'toryv?

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A rhyming answer came to Per'dra, soft and hissing, in a reptilian tongue:


"If the Spine of Sazhen' is truly to be found,

Then those who search for it must delve underground.

I don't mean by digging, for Dwarves never knew

Of the secret place that I guard, ever true.

The mountains about which I spoke in your dreams

Are not to be climbed, because it surely seems

They do not stand above your feet, but down below...

Do you know which Snake you must choose? If so, GO!"


Noticing the placid "head" of the Seven Snakes was rapidly approaching in the rushing waters of the Riault River, Per'dra looked at Oleg and cried, "Auris!"


"Are ye sure, lass? The Golden Snake ends in Bor'tharnal, sacred city of the Dwarves. You surely remember that those folk are isolationists? Not exactly hostile to strangers, for sure, but it takes a long while to earn their trust." As a Bard, Per'dra knew this. Dwarves not only isolated themselves from other mortal beings, but bore great hatred toward those races they deemed evil. That meant Ogres and Dark Elves, who either ate them or flayed them alive to make fine garments out of their skin and hair! Involuntarily, she shuddered. Lizardmen were also suspect, though to date, they had never attacked...


"I'm sure," she answered. "Please take us down the Golden Snake's waters."


"As you say," the Northman replied, "although I'll have to use my enchanted ferryman's lantern to make sure that we catch the right current." When the raft slid into the currentless "head" of the Seven Snakes, Oleg raised his lantern, which glowed with an ordinary flame. However, it soon changed: From furthest left to furthest right, as Oleg moved the lantern slowly, the flame turned green, white, blue, red, golden, amber, and finally blue-black. "The fifth eddy," he announced. "Auris it is. I'm glad some of you paid!"


With a mighty "Heave!", Oleg splashed his pole into the water and navigated the ferry toward the wide river marked with the golden flame. It burned brightly, the color of a lemon's peel instead of its ordinary hue. When they were safely within the confines of the banks of the Auris, he said:


"Taste the water, miss. Even now, it should have a slightly mineral flavor."


Per'dra took a sip. "It does! Thank you, sir, for steering us on this course."


"'Tis no problem, especially since we're fleeing the gods-forsaken Purge! I myself would have preferred to sail on Belayya, the White Snake, but that leads home..." Trailing off, in the light of his lantern, he looked wistful.


"Would you tell me more about the Dwarves?" asked Per'dra. "Even though I'm a bard by trade, I haven't met very many in Paryer's taverns. Why is that?"


"As I said, they keep almost entirely to themselves, and for good reason. Dwarves love digging for treasure, and they don't want anybody else to steal it! Beyond that, they're a folk of tradition, and they despise it when anyone else tries to tell them what to do or how to live their lives. We have kings; they have clan elders. We have families; they have clans. Dwarves also have a long-standing rivalry with the Forest Elves, down Esmeralde's way. Forest Elves revere nature and seek to commune with it; the Dwarves seek to conquer it. They're not poachers, by any means. They're too noble for that."


Suddenly, Oleg turned his head so fast the tendons in his neck snapped:


"By the Frozen Peaks! I almost forgot to tell you! I can't get you all the way to Borthar'nal. The entrance to the city is heavily guarded, and I haven't been able to get past the gates no matter how I hem and haw! The Dwarves have closed off the final section of the Auris River, which nourishes their capital city and provides the Dwarves with drinking water--and power, I hear..."

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